Friday, February 25, 2011

Inside the Ladies-Only Casino Night at the Empire State Building

Photo by Brooke Niemeyer

Urban Girl Squad, a ladies-only social networking group, held a casino cocktail party at the Empire Room inside the Empire State Building Thursday night. The women enjoyed a night of socializing, gaming and cocktails at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City brought in some of their tables and game dealers for the evening. Check out the NBCNewYork photo gallery I created from the evening.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Whoopi Goldberg Says Working With Barbara Walters is "Amazing"

Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Whoopi Goldberg is known for her standout performances in films like "Ghost," "The Color Purple," and "Sister Act," and now as a television host. She began her current role as co-host and moderator of the daytime talk show "The View" in 2007 and revealed to Niteside last night that, even after all this time on the show, she still gets awe-struck sitting across the table from Barbara Walters.

"I sometimes sit across from her and think, 'Wow, am I really hanging out with you?'" Goldberg said. "The most amazing thing is that, you think back to what she did and you kind of get blown away by it, because she really was the first. You don't get to meet many firsts in your life, so it's kind of amazing."

Goldberg has her own status as one of the rare recipients of all four major performance awards - an Emmy, an Oscar, a Grammy, and a Tony. Her name was recently left off a list of past black Oscar winners published in The New York Times, despite her win in 1991 for her role in "Ghost," and she has not hidden her disgust for this omission.

"Oh no, I don't think you read about me there," Goldberg said, rolling her eyes, at the mention of the article during a talk at the 92nd Street Y in the Upper East Side.

The New York Times released a statement on Monday responding to Goldberg's upset, saying that the "point of the piece was not to name every black actor or actress who has been awarded an Oscar" but instead to compare the number of winners prior to those who have won since.

Goldberg produced "Sister Act: The Musical," which will open on Broadway this March. The show originally began in London in 2008, which forced Goldberg to travel abroad - something she doesn't typically do since she doesn't like to fly.

"I didn't fly for 15 years - I have my bus," Goldberg said. "But Tom [Leonardis] says to me, off the cuff, 'We're going to London next month for the show' and I said, 'We're going to have to get an anesthesiologist."

Now that her fears are somewhat under control, thanks in part to modern medicine, Goldberg announced Thursday that she will be heading back overseas in the coming months for a royal interview.

"I'm being interviewed by Prince Edward at Windsor Castle," Goldberg said. "I know him, so it's a comfortable situation for me, and for him too."

As for if she'll return to England again for the upcoming nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton -- don't count on it.

"I'm not going to the wedding," Goldberg said. "I don't want to go -- no hot dogs."

As a well-known activist for equality and gay rights, Goldberg has participated in many LGBT rallies and also helped with the launch of Cyndi Laupers "Give a Damn Campaign," and says she doesn't understand those who oppose any marriage.

"I don't understand this idea that you have to separate it and it can't be called marriage," Goldberg said. "My feeling is, if you don't like gay marriage, don't marry a gay person."

A version of this story also ran on's Niteside.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nora Ephron: "I Get Credit for Writing ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having,’ But I Didn’t"

Photo of Nora Ephron courtesy of Getty Images
Nora Ephron is best known for writing and directing hit romantic comedies like "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and, most recently, "Julie and Julia." She revealed Wednesday night that the idea for one of the most iconic scenes in "When Harry Met Sally" wasn't actually even hers at all.

"I get credit for writing 'I'll have what she's having,' but I didn't," Ephron said, referring to the extremely famous line in the movie. "We had a reading with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan and at the end of the reading, Meg said 'I think this scene would be funnier if it took place in a restaurant.' ... Billy said that one of the customers could say, 'I'll have what she's having.' And that was it."

While speaking at the Jewish Community Center on the Upper East Side, she said that she could write all the comedic scenes she wants, but the actors are the ones who give them life.

"The actors who know how to be funny know how to take your single and make it into a triple," Ephron said. "They look at a line and they know where the word is that is funny. They look at a scene and they know what prop they have to use to make the laugh work."

Ephron, 69, has worked with a long list of great actors, including Crystal, Ryan, and Meryl Streep, and hopes to keep adding to that list. She said she has never had a problem admitting her age but has found that it sometimes alarms her.

"I remember I was directing 'Sleepless in Seattle' and we were in rehearsal and I was the oldest person in the room," Ephron said. "It was one of those moments that is always a shock."

In her latest book, "I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections," Ephron writes about her life, memories, and getting older. She said that she has found that people sugarcoat what comes with age, but she's not having any of that.

"My theory is that anyone who says that the best sex is in your 60s and 70s has not had sex until their 60s or 70s."

This story ran on's NiteSide.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Author Brian Greene Rules Out Sarah Palin Presidency Even in Other Universes

Photo of Brian Greene courtesy of Getty Images

New York City native at theoretical physicist Brian Greene recently released his latest tome "The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos," which is all about the possibility of multiple universes.

Greene compared the universe to a deck of cards and said that, at some point, elements of our world must repeat. Multiple universes are also known as a "multiverse."

"If you shuffle [a deck of cards] infinitely many times, sooner or later the order of the cards has to repeat," Green said at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square Tuesday night. "Similarly, if space goes on infinitely far, then the configuration of particles region by region has to ultimately repeat too."

He added, "Some people have asked me, does that mean that there is a place out there where Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sarah Palin are president?" Green said. "The only thing I can say to that is, is that compatible with the laws of physics?"

Greene has appeared on many talk shows, including "The Colbert Report" and "The Late Show With David Letterman," not only because of his vast knowledge on the subject, but also because of the "plain English" manner in which he speaks about scientific theories like this one.

Greene, also a professor at Columbia University, said that, despite his best efforts against it, writing this book consumed every aspect of his life.

"I tried diligently to protect my family from the time that I spent writing the book and I thought I had done a pretty good job of it," Greene said. "Until about three weeks ago, I was holding my little three-year-old daughter and saying, 'I love you more than anything in the entire universe' and she said, 'universe or multiverse?'"

This story ran on's NiteSide.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NiteTalk: Lucie Arnaz Talks About Her Mother, Acting and Joining Cast Party

Photo of Lucie Arnaz courtesy of Getty Images.

Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of legendary "I Love Lucy" actors Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, has followed her parent's footsteps into the entertainment industry. She is not only an actress, but a singer and producer as well. She recently sat down with Niteside to give us insight into her exciting life, including her upcoming performance in The Best of Jim Caruso's Cast Party to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, happing at Town Hall this Thursday night. 

I know you have performed at a few Cast Party shows in the past. What made you want to do this show in particular?
I just adore [Jim Caruso]. He's one of the funniest people on the planet and one of the nicest and the smartest. He called and said, "I'm just hoping, hoping, hoping that you're not doing something that day because you just need to be here and to be a part of it." It is like being part of a very exclusive club when Jimmy puts something together that's special. This is a unique Cast Party experience. It's not like the normal Cast Party. I was flattered to be asked and really happy that I wasn't somewhere else. He caught me in between arriving and leaving for something else. It's going to be great fun and it's for such a great cause. There's very rarely a time that I say no to something concerning Broadway Cares.

What do you look forward to the most when you're performing?
Just the fact of doing it. I love what I do. I love getting out there and picking a great story and singing it. They're stories and you go out and you do your little piece and hopefully you transport the audience in one way or another and you get off stage. It's a great feeling. The doing of it is everything - not the response or where it gets you. It doesn't get you essentially anywhere but in the now and the now of doing it is spectacular. You get addicted to the doing.

Do you ever get nervous?
I do. David Freedman used to always remind me, don't confuse excitement with nervousness. That's a great thing to remember because they feel exactly the same. When you get nervous and you start to make up thoughts about it, like 'I don't know what I'm doing, they're not going to like me, or I'm going to screw up,' you have to say, whoa, whoa, whoa - what if you were standing in line, waiting to walk onto the stage to accept your diploma for graduating from college, having accomplished all of that, you'd be feeling the same way but you'd be really excited. It's the same thing. It's just a matter of how you think about it. Now that I know that, what the nerves, the butterflies, the excitement isn't there, I get really concerned. It's like, why are you not connected on that level today? It's an electric charge and you want to plug into it.

You've starred in many movies and Broadway shows. Out of all the roles you've had, what was your favorite? 
I don't think I have one. They are all the best ones when you're doing them. I loved being in "The Jazz Singer" just because it was my first real film and I was working with such amazing people. I loved sitting in the dressing room with Neil Diamond and listening to him create songs.

Is there anyone you'd like to work with in the future?
Jeffery Rush, Colin Firth, George Clooney! (laughs) I wish I had a chance to work with people like Katherine Hepburn. I'd love to do a film with some of those really great female performers - there's so many of them, it's ridiculous - Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon. I have a tremendous admiration for good actors.

Your mother was certainly one of those good actors and you worked with her in "Here's Lucy" and "The Lucy Show." What did you learn acting with her?
Oh my god, that's a book. I could write a book called "What did I learn acting with mom." Someday I'll dedicate a large part of anything I ever write to that question, I'm sure.

In a nutshell, she did not suffer fools easily. She was a consummate professional, always prepared. She taught me show up on time, know your stuff, don't lose heart when things don't come out exactly the way you think they're going to - keep on truckin', don't let the steam out of the seam. Just be the person that the crew likes to work with because things get done faster and there's less stress.

I just automatically behaved like that as a teenager because the people on the set did, like my mother and various co-stars. You watched them and you go to to see the difference between what happens when people behave properly and come prepared and act professional and then it doesn't go so swell when the other people come on with their egos and they aren't prepared, they're rude, they have serious attitude and the whole week just comes to a painful halt. I learned that's not the way to work. And that's something that no matter how many colleges or acting schools you go to, you don't ever get that because you don't know until you're in it and doing it with the real guys. I appreciate having the opportunity having learned from that angle.

You directed and co-wrote a one-woman show with Suzanne LaRusch called "An Evening With Lucille Ball - Thank You for Asking!" about her.
Yes. They always say if you're going to go into something you haven't done before, stick with things you know, write about things you know, film things you know, and that's certainly something I thought I knew. I gave it my best shot and it turned out great. ...[LaRusch] is probably the only person on the planet who can perform the Lucille Ball character as well as do they Lucy Ricardo stuff flawlessly.

Do you think your mom would've liked it?
She would have been floored. She would have loved it. She always said there was nobody who could do me, meaning the Lucille Ball person as opposed to the character Lucy Ricardo. As a matter of fact, in a sense I'm pretty sure she's had a lot to do with this having the success that it's had. It's too hard to pull these things off with a little extra help from the people upstairs. I think if she didn't like it, we'd be having fires.

Do you ever watch the "I Love Lucy" reruns?
I used to be able to turn the TV on any time of day and trip over it and say, "Oh, there they are." And of course, I watch it whenever I can, but it's not on anymore. They've hidden it somewhere and I'm still trying to find it.

This story ran on's NiteSide.

Friday, February 11, 2011

DJ Stretch Armstrong: "Nas was Always Bone-Chillingly Spectacular"

Adrian Bartos, also known as DJ Stretch Armstrong.
Photo courtesy of: Getty Images

New York City's legendary late-night radio duo, Adrian 'Stretch Armstrong' Bartos and Robert 'Bobbito' Garcia, reunited last night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their radio show. Bartos revealed to Niteside that while they have a long list of great guests that came on their show, Nas is undeniably his favorite.

"Nas was always bone-chillingly spectacular," Bartos said at the le Poisson Rouge club in the East Village last night. "When he was on, even before he was signed, you just got the sense that something really important was going on."

Many of the artists the pair had on, including Nas and Fat Joe, were unknown at the time but are now famous hip-hop stars. Bartos said it has been interesting to watch them change and progress over the years.

"I know them as broke, struggling artists," Bartos said. "Some of them have a policy of positivity, but it's very superficial as part of their strategy of being successful. Whereas some of them are just genuine and haven't changed and they'll see me on the street and practically tackle me."

Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito's show ran on Columbia University's WKCR 88.9FM throughout the 1990s and catered to an insomniac crowd, airing from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. every Thursday. Doing a live show outside of the DJ booth was a first for them, and Bartos said it was an entirely different experience.

"The crazy thing about doing radio is you're isolated in a room and you know you've got many more listeners than if you were in a club, but you don't see them," Bartos said. "I think that's part of the magic of the show we had, is we didn't act like anyone was listening."

Bartos pointed out that they had their show before the days of podcasts, online streaming, and social media, so people were listening live on their stereos and calling in. But now, they've discovered a whole new age for radio with the Internet.

"When we did the show before, we weren't in the digital age yet, so we didn't have that immediate feedback," Bartos said. "But after doing one now, we were a trending topic on Twitter nationally and the live streams were getting shut down from too many listeners. We wanted to feel more of that and so we decided to take it to a live venue and see how it goes."

Live appearances may become a regular thing for the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito show.

"Maybe [we will] do it again in the spring time at a bigger venue," Bartos said. "Possibly a tour too. We'll see what happens."

This story ran on's NiteSide.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oscar Predictions at the 92Y

Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer
According to New York's film elite, "The King's Speech" is the movie to beat.

A panel including some of the city's top film critics discussed the top Oscar contenders at the 92nd Street Y last night. Guests watched clips of nominated films and panelists predicted the winners.

Panelists included New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, film publicist Amanda Lundberg, Entertainment Weekly contributor Mark Harris, and author and film critic Molly Haskell.

While all the panelists agreed that "The Kings Speech" and "The Social Network" both deserved a nomination for best picture, they all agree the award will go to the former.

"A month ago I would've said 'The Social Network' seemed to have the momentum and al the finger on the pulse of the times," Harris said. "But I find it a little more cautious and a little more usual than 'The Kings Speech.'"

The panel also addressed the fact that comedies never get nominated -- despite the expansion of best picture nominees from five movies to 10.

While comedies like "The Hangover" or "Easy A" don't get Oscar nods, Lundberg said it doesn't mean they aren't filled with good performances.

"What's interesting is that the films are nominated by members of the Academy who are in the business and know how hard it is to make a good comedy," Lundberg said. "Just because they're silly doesn't mean they're not well done."

Coming off her Golden Globe win, Natalie Portman is favored to win the Oscar for best actress for her role in Black Swan -- although not everyone thought she deserves it.

"I did not like [the film] and I did not like her in it," Haskell said. "But I think that it's something to have her up there and pregnant with this divine man she'll be married to. But of course, look at what happened to Sandra Bullock last year. She won the award and she lost her guy."

Panelists pointed to the dreaded Oscar curse: Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, and Halle Berry all split with their husbands after winning the Oscar for best actress.

The Oscars will be held on Feb 27.

This story ran on's NiteSide.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Party at BlackFinn

Sarah, one of the bartenders at BlackFinn, pouring a stack of shots.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer

The Green Bay Packers beat out the Pittsburgh Stealers, 31 - 25 in the Super Bowl. Check out my NBC photo gallery showing how fans of both teams celebrated the game at a midtown sports bar. Go Packers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brooke Burke's Favorite Celeb: Mrs. Brady

Before signing her new book at Borders.
Photo by: Brooke Niemeyer

Brooke Burke, the co-host of "Dancing With the Stars," revealed last night that out of all the celebrities she has met during her career, Florence Henderson is the one who has inspired her the most.

"She's an amazing woman who is timeless and still sexy," Burke said. "She taught me an invaluable lesson. She said to me that you have to put yourself first in life. It's not just about the kids. She's really affected me."

Burke, who started out as a contestant -- and eventual winner -- in the seventh season of the dance-off show, said that it is one of the few places she has found that presents a chance to really get to know celebrities.

"'Dancing With the Stars' is interesting because that's an opportunity to see people without their entourage," Burke said. "You really see people for who they are on that show."

She also spoke about her new book, "The Naked Mom," at the Borders in Columbus Circle last night. She said she devoted all of her free time over the past year to writing it.

"I worked on it in a dressing room, in my car, at night, in the morning, every free moment I had," Burke said. "I wondered if I was telling too much or not telling enough, or if things were relevant or if anyone was going to care about this or if people are going to judge me. But I decided I'm just going to do it and I'm going to do it honestly. It was a crazy, therapeutic experience."

This story ran on's NiteSide.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blogger Ree Drummond Talks Casting for "The Pioneer Woman"

Author and blogger Ree Drummond
photo courtesy of Getty Images
Ree Drummond, the popular blogger, The Pioneer Woman, has a movie coming out based on her book. And she knows exactly who should play her.

"I would love to have Elle Macpherson," Drummond joked last night at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. "I mean, Reese Witherspoon is cute and all but if you're going for body type, abs, and legs... I think it's only fitting."

Witherspoon is rumored to be taking on the role. The movie, due out sometime next year, will be based on Drummond's book, "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels -- A Love Story," but will be named after her blog -- "The Pioneer Woman."

The book is structured like a fiction novel, but Drummond said all the experiences came from her real life.

"All the scenes are as they actually happened," Drummond said. " I probably wasn't perfect with the timeline. Probably the conversations aren't word-for-word... but all the conversations and circumstances all happened."

In 2009, Drummond released "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl," a cookbook including some of her favorite recipes. She says that while this book was well received, she doesn't think of herself as an expert in the kitchen.

"I'm not a trained chef, I'm just a home cook," Drummond said. "But I'm a home cook that has been cooking at home for 15 years, so I think anything you do that long becomes second nature."

Now that she has a cookbook and novel under her belt, Drummond plans to release a children's book next.

"In about three months, I have a little Charlie children's book coming out," Drummond said. "After that, it'll be about a year before cookbook number two comes out."

This story ran on's NiteSide.